Pool league shows nice guys don’t finish last

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Pool league shows nice guys don’t finish last

What a wonderful time of year. A time for being with friends, extending good tidings and deciding who’s been naughty and nice. Sure, some people take it more seriously than they should, and lose their tempers if they don’t get what they want. But it’s always a lovely season. And it’s all for a good cause.
Christmas? No. We’re talking about the Itaewon Pool League, which wrapped up its latest season Wednesday night in dramatic fashion, when a player from the Loft Hunters team, in a do-or-die situation, sank a triple banker and brought down the house.
“It was a great shot,” explained Matt Chung, a long-time league member who was one of the 50 to 60 spectators crowded around the pool table at the Loft. “The 8-ball was right in front of the pocket, so he was risking a scratch, and a simple miss would have been fatal. When he made it, the place went crazy.”
The geometrically exacting shot cinched the league title for the Loft Hunters, an all-Korean team, over a multinational squad sponsored by the bar Bless U. Also reaching Wednesday’s finals, but getting eliminated in the first round, were teams from the Hollywood Grill and the Seoul Pub.
Mr. Chung, who has played in the league since it started four years ago, was impressed with the turnout for the final. “Usually the league members lose interest once they’re eliminated, and couldn’t care less about the playoffs,” he explained. “But this time was different.”
In addition to the big crowd, a camera crew from MBC was on hand, filming for its 9 o’clock news program. Word is that the segment will air next Tuesday.
The finals capped a fall-winter season for the 22-team league that began in early September. All that’s left now, until the spring-summer campaign, is the banquet, to be held tomorrow at 6 p.m. at the Hamilton Hotel, where the members will award the championship trophy to the Loft Hunters.
Denied the big crown, Mr. Chung and his squad, sponsored by the Friend bar, are still a good bet to win the sportsmanship award, since teams he’s captained have gotten it three times in the past.
His teams get recognized, he said, because they never break their pool cues over their knees or rend their clothing when their luck runs bad. “Stuff like that is happening more and more every season,” Mr. Chung explained.
If you want to see how Mr. Chung’s nice guys finished this year, go to the league’s spiffy Web site, itaewonpool.org, which is chock full of standings and player rankings. You’ll find Mr. Chung’s stats under “The Sheriff,” his nom de pool.
The league, in fact, deserves its own nice-guy award, since it donates a few million won, collected from entry fees, every year to a local orphanage.
If you’re interested in joining for the spring-summer campaign, go to the Web site for information, or crash the banquet.


by Mike Ferrin
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